BOCC to vote on major changes.
Frederick’s Board of County Commissioners will vote this month on the fate of the county’s Child Advocacy Center, a child-friendly facility where child victims of abuse may be interviewed, and receive medical examinations and therapy.
The multidisciplinary approach, adopted in 2001, is "a one-stop shop" so that abused children are not retraumatized during the investigative and prosecutorial aspects of the case. The center is part of county government, under the umbrella of Citizens’ Services.
A model proposed by the Frederick County Department of Social Services would move the "one-stop-shop" from a county building to DSS, and likely reduce staff. County Commissioners’ President Blaine R. Young (R) said in an interview that a majority of the center’s advisory board agreed to the change to make the operation "more effective."
But Commissioner Paul Smith (R) is not sure why the county is taking such a drastic move, because, he said in an interview, that the reasons for the move are not clear.
Without understanding why the change is being made, Smith said he does not think "it is smart."
The advisory board is comprised of members of county and city law enforcement, DSS, the county’s Citizen Services department, which oversees CAC, and the Frederick County State’s Attorney’s office.
According to an article by this reporter published on July 26 in The Gazette, State’s Attorney Charlie Smith initiated the proposed change with Young to take over the center. Members of the center’s advocacy board, Friends of the Child Advocacy Center, said that the friction between the agencies arose over Smith’s refusal to allow video testimony from child abuse victims in court cases.
The reasoning behind video testimony is to avoid retraumatizing the child by having him or her retelling the story of abuse.
According to the National Alliance for Children, 90 percent of members use video testimony, and most jurisdictions in Maryland allow it. State’s Attorney Smith is firm in his belief, however, because it does not serve the best interest of the child.
Young said in July that the change was initiated because of "personnel and management" issues, and has nothing to do with fiscal concerns. Of the center’s $227,000 budget, the county contributes $118,000.
The commissioners will decide the issue later this month in a public hearing, but no date has been set yet, according to Young.